<outline based on Adam Hamilton’s lesson of Generosity from ‘Enough’>
As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
Some give freely, yet grow all the richer; others withhold what is due, and only suffer want. A generous person will be enriched, and one who gives water will get water. (Proverbs 11:24-25)
Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor. (Proverbs 22:9)
A Theological Foundation for a Generous Life
Created to be generous, tempted to hoard
God created us with the willingness to give—to God and to others. This design is part of our makeup; we actually have the need to be generous. Yet there are two voices that work against our God-given impulse toward generosity and that tempt us to keep or hoard what we have. The charge is to multiply: God graciously gives us life, breath, brain, purpose, and passion: What stops us?
- The voice of fear
Fear of what might happen to us, along with a misplaced idea about the true source of our security, keeps us from being generous and leads us to hoard what we have. The truth is that hoarding offers us no real security in this world.
- The voice of self-gratification
Our culture tells us that our lives consist in the abundance of our possessions and pleasurable experiences. So we find ourselves thinking, If I give, there won’t be enough left for me.
Defeating the voices
When we give our lives to Christ, invite him to be Lord, and allow the Holy Spirit to begin changing us from the inside out, we find that our fears begin to dissipate and our aim in life shifts from seeking personal pleasure to pleasing God and caring for others. Although we still may wrestle with the voices from time to time, we are able to silence them more readily and effectively the more we grow in Christ. And the more we grow in Christ, realizing that our lives belong to him, the more generous we become. Generosity is a fruit of spiritual growth.
Biblical reasons to give to God and others
- “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
- “Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).
- “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it” (Psalm 24:1).
Biblical guidelines for giving
From the early days of the Old Testament, God’s people observed the practice of giving some portion of the best they had to God. A gift offered to God was called the first fruits or the tithe, and it equaled one-tenth of one’s flocks or crops or income. Abraham was the first to give a tithe or tenth.
- Genesis 14:20b and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him one-tenth of everything.
- Genesis 28:18-22 So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel, but the name of the city was Luz at the first. 20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, 21 so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, 22 and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house; and of all that you give me I will surely give one-tenth to you.”
- Leviticus 27:30-33 All tithes from the land, whether the seed from the ground or the fruit from the tree, are the Lord’s; they are holy to the Lord. 31 If persons wish to redeem any of their tithes, they must add one-fifth to them. 32 All tithes of herd and flock, every tenth one that passes under the shepherd’s staff, shall be holy to the Lord.33 Let no one inquire whether it is good or bad, or make substitution for it; if one makes substitution for it, then both it and the substitute shall be holy and cannot be redeemed.
Giving a tithe
As Christians who live under the new covenant, we are not bound by the law of Moses; we look to it as a guide. Yet most Christians agree that the tithe is a good guideline for our lives and one that is pleasing to God. Though tithing can be a struggle, it is possible at virtually every income level. If you cannot tithe right away, take a step in that direction. Perhaps you can give 2 percent or 5 percent or 7 percent. God understands where you are and will help you make the adjustments necessary to become more generous.
Giving beyond the tithe
Tithing is a floor, not a ceiling. God calls us to grow beyond the tithe. We should strive to set aside an additional percentage of our income as offerings for other things that are important to us, such as mission projects, schools, church building funds, and nonprofit organizations.
What Our Giving Means to God
How does our giving affect God?
From the earliest biblical times, the primary way people worshiped God was by building an altar and offering the fruit of one’s labors upon it to God. They would burn the sacrifice of an animal or grain as a way of expressing their gratitude, devotion, and desire to honor God. The scent of the offering was said to be pleasing to God. It wasn’t that God loved the smell of burnt meat and grain. Rather, God saw that people were giving a gift that expressed love, faith, and the desire to please and honor God, and this moved God’s heart. When given in this spirit, our offerings bless the Lord.
What is God’s response to our giving?
- Luke 6:38 give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
- Matthew 25:14-30 “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 After a long time, the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’23 His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’26 But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return, I would have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29 For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
What Our Giving Means to Us
Through it, our hearts are changed.
When we are generous—to God and to our families, friends, neighbors, and others who are in need—our hearts are filled with joy. They are enlarged by the very act of giving. When we give generously, we become more generous.
In it, we find the blessings of God.
Many Christians have it wrong. They say that if you give, then God will give more back to you. But that is not how it works. We do not give to God so that we can get something in return. The amazing thing is that when we give to God and to others, the blessings just seem to come back to us. Of course, there is no guarantee that if we tithe, we will never lose our job or never have other bad things happen to us. Nevertheless, when we give generously, the unmistakable blessings of God flow into our lives.
O God, we thank you that you have given us life, that you sustain us by the power of your Holy Spirit, and that you gave Jesus Christ as an offering for us and for our sins. We thank you for the abundance that we have in our lives. And we pray, O Lord, that you would help us. Help us to honor you with our tithes. Help us to care for the poor and those who are in need. Help us to recognize that it is more blessed to give than to receive. We offer ourselves to you. Guide us now as we prepare to fill out our commitment cards. Help us, O Lord, to do your will. Lead us, we pray. In your holy name. Amen.